Filipino Nurses Support Group
Vancouver, B.C., Canada
B.C. NURSES SAY 'SHOW US THE MONEY' WHILE FILIPINO NURSES CONTINUE TO
TOIL IN MODERN-DAY SLAVERY
In the wake of the B.C. Nurses' Union's (BCNU) unveiling of their plan
on how B.C. can competitively recruit and retain desperately needed
nurses, a 60% wage hike sounds great for practicing nurses in B.C., but
rings quite clearly on the unrealistic side. Crying out loudly and
consistently are the often ignored and misunderstood voices of the large
and growing numbers of Filipino nurses struggling to waken health and
nursing institutions, like the BCNU, to their clearly difficult reality.
Instead of being allowed to enter the country as nurses and landed
immigrants, especially now, during these times of a critical nursing
shortage hitting hospitals across the country, the Canadian government,
through Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), offers zero
occupational points to nurses in assessing independent immigrant
applicants. The only choice for many nurses from the Philippines
attempting to escape the grinding poverty in their homeland, therefore,
is to come to Canada under the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) as
cheaply paid domestic workers.
After at least two years of not practicing nursing, they become
de-skilled. Their needed nursing skills and education become a complete
waste in Canadian society during a time they are needed the most.
Filipino nurses become legislated into poverty and debt by the Canadian
BCNU President, Ivory Warner, explained that it's high time that nurses'
work be truly valued and respected, when they publicly announced the
union's bargaining demand to increase nurses' wages from $26.50 to $42
"What about valuing and respecting nurses' work equally?" questions
Joyce Lovitos, a nurse from the Philippines who came to Canada in 1998
and member of the Filipino Nurses Support Group (FNSG). Hoping to
practice nursing here, she came to Canada under the LCP. She did
not realize however, that a live-in caregiver was a glossed-up term for
a minimum wage domestic worker who scrubs the toilets, mops the floors,
and looks after the children and elderly of privileged Canadian families
who could afford to have a live-in nanny.
"There are so many Filipino and other foreign-trained nurses already
here and fully qualified to practice nursing in B.C., yet who are held
back by immigration and accreditation barriers from working as nurses.
In fact, Filipino nurses are at the top of the list when it comes to
foreign-trained nurses successfully obtaining their registration to
practice nursing in B.C. based on RNABC [Registered Nurses Association
of B.C.] requirements" states Lovitos. "Are they saying that the
contribution of qualified foreign-trained nurses are considered less
valuable? Or are we just less desirable as professionals in Canada?"
A pool of highly-skilled, yet low-paid health workers has been created
through the Canadian government's LCP. Once the nurses complete their
temporary work contract as domestic workers and obtain their landed
immigrant status, many become home support workers, nursing aides, or
continue to do domestic work, because of the many barriers that prevent
them from practicing nursing here. Their presence in fact, cheapens the
nursing profession by driving down the wages of Canadian nurses and
"It's a formula for the privatization of Canada's health care system.
Highly-skilled and highly-educated immigrants, mostly from the Third
World, are segregated as sources of cheap labour for Canada", states
Leah Diana, a registered nurse in B.C. and member of FNSG. "With BCNU's
recent announcement of their demand to increase nurses' wages to $42 per
hour, can this really be achieved when qualified foreign-trained nurses
continue to make $7.50 an hour in private homes and home care agencies?"
BCNU's position only promotes racist assumptions about the
qualifications of foreign-trained nurses, further dividing and
segregating the nursing workforce, and pitting Canadian nurses against
"The struggle of Filipino and other foreign-trained nurses is a
legitimate struggle for recognition and equality as immigrants and women
working in Canada. Government and nursing institutions should commit to
support the struggle of Filipino nurses as one of the concrete steps
they can take to help alleviate the nursing shortage and improve health
care", states Sheila Farrales, registered nurse in B.C., also a member
For more information, call Leah or Sheila at (604) 215-1103.
Celebrating a Decade of Struggle
Philippine Women Centre of B.C.
ph/fax: (604) 215-1103